The 3-7-0 ditch the Bruins had dug themselves has been filled. After their fourth straight win last night, a 6-3 victory over Edmonton before 17,565 at TD Garden, the 7-7-0 Bruins are back to .500.
The way they’re playing, that ditch should become a hill.
The Bruins weren’t perfect. Goalie Tuukka Rask, making back-to-back starts for the first time this season, wasn’t sharp at the beginning. The Boston penalty kill, on a 13-for-13 streak entering the game, allowed a third-period power-play goal. In the first period, the Bruins saw the Oilers wipe out a two-goal deficit by scoring twice in 29 seconds.
But the Bruins did far more good than bad, which was almost always the reverse last month. They put pucks on net. They cycled in the offensive zone. They converted twice on the power play. Such accomplishments are often the result of attention to every detail.
“We’re playing better as a five-man unit on the ice,’’ said Milan Lucic, who scored a power-play goal in the third. “We’re supporting each other well all over the ice. We’re coming up together. We’re backchecking a lot harder. We’re getting into lanes and causing turnovers. We’re going to the net harder.
“Just those little things are causing us to play like the way we know how to play.’’
Leading the charge were Brad Marchand and Joe Corvo. They entered the night with two of the cooler sticks on the team. Marchand hadn’t found the back of the net in nine straight games. Corvo hadn’t scored all season. The former Carolina defenseman, a power-play specialist for the Hurricanes, had recorded only two man-advantage assists in 13 games.
Both busted through last night. Marchand scored twice. Corvo led the offensive outburst with three assists, including two on the power play.
“Sometimes guys try and do too much,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “They try and get a little too fancy. It doesn’t suit their game. That’s Brad in a nutshell. He just has to play hard, use his speed to take pucks to the net, and shoot it.’’
In the second period, Marchand busted a 2-2 tie. With Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry in the box for hooking, the Bruins set up on the power play. Corvo walked the puck to the middle, then fired a snap shot on goal. Marchand, who had been stationed in front, tipped the puck past goalie Devan Dubnyk (22 saves) at 3:50 to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead.
Corvo was involved in the winning goal as well. Corvo recognized that the Oilers were making a line change while he had the puck in the defensive zone. If he could get rid of the puck quickly, he knew the Bruins would have numbers going the other way.
“Any time the other team tries to dump it, they all go for changes, and they whiff on it, you know there’s going to be a couple guys on the far side of the ice,’’ Corvo said. “As soon as it got on my stick, I knew Seggy [Tyler Seguin] was going. Just get it in the forwards’ hands and let them do the hard work.’’
Seguin took Corvo’s pass, backed up the Oilers with speed, and flung a shot on goal. The puck went wide and glanced off the end boards. It then hit Dubnyk, bounced off defenseman Corey Potter, and skimmed off Tom Gilbert before crossing the goal line at 6:24. Seguin was credited with his team-leading ninth goal.
Corvo struck again in the third period. On the power play, he jumped up to support the attack. Because of how far Corvo had come toward the net, he was in good position to spot Lucic open in front. With a sharp cross-ice pass, Corvo connected with Lucic, and the left wing hit the back of the net at 17:13.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do a lot more - get involved with the play and jump up,’’ Corvo said. “Be right behind the forwards for anything that might turn over - rebounds, passes, anything. I feel that gets me more into the game and thinking more offensively. I think I play better that way.’’
At the other end, Rask shook off a sputtering start to earn his second straight win.
In the first minute, Oilers left wing Ryan Smyth rattled a wrister off the left post.
At 12:02, Smyth tipped a Theo Peckham shot past Rask to cut into Boston’s 2-0 lead. At 12:31, after taking a return pass from Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins beat Rask clean with a slot shot to tie the game at 2-2.
But Rask stood tall for the rest of the first. He stopped five shots in the second. In the third, aside from a close-range Smyth power-play goal, Rask kicked out 12 shots.
Rask will most likely back up Tim Thomas against Buffalo tomorrow.
“It’s hard for a goaltender to play every 10 days,’’ Julien said. “Every once in a while, you’ve got to allow him to get on a roll a little bit.
“You probably know who’s going to be in nets the next game. But the bottom line is that we’ve got a lot of games coming up. I wanted to get him an opportunity to get closer to being at the best he can be. The only way we felt we could do that was by giving him some consecutive games.’’
The Bruins are back to even ground. For a team that was once dead last in the Eastern Conference, .500 never sounded sweeter.